Night Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9

Chapter 9 "I had to stay at BuchenwaldŠ"


Eliezer remains at Buchenwald until April 11. He has nothing to say of these last months in the concentration camps because after his father's death, he became indifferent and emotionless, concerned only with eating. He is transferred to the children's block.

On April 5, the SS guard is late to roll call, and everyone knows something must have happened. After two hours, an announcement goes out that all Jews must go to the assembly place. The children start to go to, but prisoners tell them to go back to their blocks, warning them that the Germans are going to shoot everyone. On the way back, they learn that "the camp resistance organization had decided not to abandon the Jews and was going to prevent their being liquidated." The next day there is a roll call, and the head of Buchenwald announces that the camp is to be liquidated. Ten blocks of deportees would be evacuated each day, and no more food would be distributed.

On April 10, the remaining 20,000 prisoners are to be evacuated and the camp blown up. A siren alert occurs, however, and the evacuation is postponed to the next day. Nobody had eaten anything for six days. The next morning the resistance movement suddenly battles the SS in the assembly place. The SS flees, and resistance takes charge of the camp. At six in the evening, the first American tank arrives at Buchenwald.

The first thing the newly-freed prisoners thought of was food. Then, they thought of clothes and sex. Nobody thought of revenge. Three days after Buchenwald was liberated, Eliezer became deathly ill with food poisoning and spent two weeks in the hospital. After he got a little bit better, he gathered enough strength to look at himself in the mirror. He had not seen his reflection since living in the ghetto. When he looks at himself, he sees the eyes of a corpse, and that image has never left him.


Though Eliezer feels relieved when his father dies, it is clear that this emotion is merely a momentary one that he later deeply regrets. For after his father's death, Eliezer's life in the concentration camp also ceases to really exist: "I have nothing to say of my life during this period. It no longer mattered. After my father's death, nothing could touch me any more." The narrative ends rather abruptly after his father dies because to Eliezer, there is really no more story to tell. His story of life at Auschwitz and Buna has been one in which he and his father struggled together to survive, and after he dies, details become irrelevant.

In the last few pages of the novel, Wiesel leaves out some historical background that would make the narrative clearer. For example, he fails to explain what the camp resistance organization is, and he does not tell us exactly how close to defeat the Germans are. During this time Eliezer doesn't care about anything except feeding himself, and he probably isn't monitoring the war outside all that closely and just wants to get out of the concentration camp. The reader knows probably as much about the outside world during this time as the actual camp occupants do, and the omission of historical facts is therefore not all that important. The details of the liberation are not as important as the fact that the concentration camp survivors are finally able to escape the hellish world they have been living in.

Wiesel comments that none of the prisoners think of revenge when they are first freed. His tone in this passage suggests that he thinks that revenge should be sought, but in the very next paragraph, he describes how he became ill with food poisoning, and talk of revenge disappears from the narrative. However, the image that Wiesel concludes with implies that while revenge may be necessary, there is no way to reverse the damage that the Nazis inflicted on the Jewish people: "I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me." The Nazis transformed Eliezer into a living corpse, a shadow of his former self, and surrounded him with constant death and misery. They killed his family, reduced him to base, animal instincts, and denied him his humanity. No matter what revenge Eliezer and the other prisoners may seek from the Nazis, there is no way that they can undo what has already been done.